By Davey D Cook
Lots to reflect upon with respect to the Movement 4 Black Lives convening that took place in Cleveland [the weekend of July 24-26]. It was inspiring. It was powerful. It was on many levels, historic. To see so many people come together and be supportive and uplift one another was needed.
To witness some of the heartfelt, informative and at times challenging exchanges between folks of different generations, from different movements from different parts of the country was compelling. It was good to hear that folks are starting breakfast programs, doing political education and looking into success programs of the past ala the Panthers and other groups and trying to build upon them.
To see folks who at times felt tired, marginalized, besieged and weary from all that is happening step up, be present and dig in deeper and press on is not to be taken lightly.
At the same time this gathering was sobering. The harsh reality of police terrorism was only always lurking nearby. We caught a glimpse of that on Saturday night when a large group of people gathered in front of the student union formed a circle and began chanting, dancing and freestyling… To hear all these strong black voices rock as drummers banged away in the background got everyone hyped. Something about it was moving and healing. It was not lost on us that while this spontaneous activity was engaging and fun for us it would be frightening for others…
The drumming circle was in full swing at around 10pm in front of closed student union, far removed from any residents or businesses. The streets were empty. It wasn’t long before word went out that police cars had assembled around the corner from us, and soon cars were visible on all sides. No one came out the patrol cars to shut things down or tell us to stop, but their presence was clear. It was a reminder that at all times, Black folks gathering to fight for liberation are under tax payer supported, domestic surveillance.
The police presence that night was designed to intimidate: in response, people turned up even more. They drummed harder. They chanted louder. The circle tightened folks were uplifted even more. But folks also knew that it would be best to leave in groups and make sure no one was caught out, isolated and left behind so they could be hemmed up by CPD.
The terrorism of police whether they are in Cleveland, New York City or Waller County Texas cannot be under estimated or swept under the rug. The next morning long time activist and author, Bakari Kitwana swooped me up and took me over to the place where 12 year old Tamir Rice was shot and killed. He wanted me to see it for myself, because as he noted what was shown on film did not fully translate what the scene was really like. When I got there you could see the place where Tamir was, was very small. It’s a kiddie park with slides, swings and a sand box. His house is right across the street and community center where he ate food was 25 feet away.
The area is not some gang infested, dangerous place where at any moment life could be taken by so called ‘gang bangers’ or other ‘criminal elements’. It's what many would consider a good neighborhood and the park where Tamir and other kids play. During the panel discussions at the convention, Tamir’s mother, Samiria noted that if her kids were out of hand, she was just a hop and skip away. She could’ve been called or brought across the street or any of the adults in the community center could’ve been called. That never happened.
In order for the police to get Tamir, their car had to drive over areas where kids play and run around. It would take some serious maneuvering to avoid hitting any of the obstacles separating the sidewalk from the park. What struck me when seeing the location was the cop who shot Tamir was on a mission to do an execution.
Again, the grainy black and white video does no justice to what has happened. Seeing the scene in real life is haunting and underscores the evilness of the officer (Timothy Loehmann) who killed Tamir. There was no way his life was in danger. There was plenty of opportunity and places for that cop car to be situated where they could’ve alerted the 12 year old about their concerns. Ideally, if the police were familiar with the residence of the community, they would’ve known it was a 12 year old with toy gun and could’ve called him by name and cleared up any misperceptions. These officers simply did not want to do that...
Thus far a judge has refused to honor his own suggestion that this officer should be criminally charged. Bakari noted that the judge won’t sign the warrant and to date Timothy Loehmann has not been interviewed.
On the Ground
While in Cleveland, the Movement for Black Lives attendees met the evilness that makes up the Cleveland police department at the conclusion of their closing ceremonies, when they came upon police who accused a 14 year old of holding an open container. The so -called open container was a Snapple, but that didn’t stop the police from slamming the 14 year old to the ground. This lead to folks at the conference surrounding the police car and chanting. That in turn led to a transit cop pepper spraying the crowd. In spite of that, the crowd held tight and the 14 year old was released from police custody.
This morning [July 24] many of us have awakened to the news that two more people have been found dead in police jail cells. In Cleveland, 37 year old Ralkina Jones was arrested on Friday after she had an argument with her husband. On Sunday her her dead body was found in a jail cell. She was supposed to see a judge this morning. It's almost 1pm in Cleveland, and there are still no reasons being given for her death. More details are still forthcoming..
Many of us were also being made aware that a long time native American activist named Rexdale W. Henry, 53, was recently found dead inside the Neshoba County Jail in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He had been arrested over failure to pay a minor traffic citation in mid-July and a few days later was dead in his jail cell.
Three things came out of this convention that I think many people took to heart. First and foremost, people are fully committed and believe to the depths of their souls, we will win. These dark days shall pass and there will be a day of reckoning. You could see it in people’s eyes, you could hear it in their voices, you could feel it in the air.
Two, it's clear there are many who are in key positions who have picked a side. There are many including folks of darker hues who are hell bent on excusing, uplifting and staying aligned to a system that is dysfunctional and vicious. As was pointed out at one of the panels, the Feds aren’t coming to save us. Obama is not coming to save us. Hillary is not coming to save us. Black mayors, Black Attorney Generals, Black police chiefs and hand picked media pundits are not gonna save us. Their actions or lack of actions commensurate with their power and access clearly defines the side they are on.
As the saying goes, 'we are all we got' and so our organizing must be tighter, planning, training, strategies and out the box thinking is a must. Truly understanding our collective power and potential is key. What’s taking place can not be reformed. It has to be removed and replaced. It’s clear that those in power are set to go full throttle to hold on to something that clearly will not last forever.
People are woke and will stay woke. The theme song that uplifted everyone this weekend and may be the sound track for this movement or at least it was for this gathering, the way ‘We Shall Overcome' was a sound track for movements in the past, is Kendrick Lamar’s (We Gonna Be ) ‘Alright’….